The bottom line is our homeless shelter has to go somewhere, and the clock is ticking.
With the lease at the Travelodge set to expire at the end of May, the municipality has two months to finalize a new home for our homeless.
After administration proposed establishing the site at Hope Haven on Wellington Street, downtown business owners rallied against the idea.
Council, upon receiving last-minute word there could be other options, deferred the matter.
That’s when word of the former Victoria Park School, located on Murray Street in Chatham’s east side, surfaced as a possible location. A group of local developers, some with downtown properties, negotiated to purchase the building. They offered it to the municipality for a $1 lease for the next three years.
The issue came to light for most residents in the area on March 18, as news broke in local media that it would be on the municipal council agenda.
As residents scrambled to voice their opposition, the motion passed just three days later, and now the shelter is earmarked for a residential neighbourhood, albeit at the end of the street with no neighbours to the immediate east.
Residents are, just as downtown merchants were, concerned about safety. With many homeless suffering from mental health and addiction problems, there is concern over public and property safety.
However, municipal officials said they will keep a close eye on things.
Small promise for a host of worried parents and property owners.
How did we get here? How did the merchants seemingly have a bigger say than a cluster of ratepayers?
As mentioned, the clock is ticking. Something had to be done.
But when did the clock begin to tick on this project? Did council or administration drop the proverbial ball on the matter and the issue got punted around the Civic Centre for a time?
We can’t forget we are coming out of a lengthy pandemic. Add onto that the situation in Wheatley over hydrogen sulphide gas leaks and a vacated downtown. Significant municipal resources were tied up elsewhere.
To reiterate, we need a shelter. Somewhere. If not Murray Street, where?
Most everyone agrees a homeless shelter is badly needed, but no one wants it in their neighbourhoods.